In my last column, I offered sales and marketing tips to dealers who sell parts covered by lifetime warranties. Basically, such a warranty is not a cure-all for overcoming sales objections-or for mending fractured customer relations. Let's continue the discussion with additional tips on the real world of lifetime parts warranties.
Few consumers have the patience to pore over the fine print of any warranty. But experience shows a battle royal ensues whenever failures occur and customers learn they have to pay for labor required to replace a ``lifetime'' part-or discover the warranty excludes the failure for some reason.
Today, progressive service shops take a proactive rather than reac-tive stance to warranty conflicts. They save time, reduce confusion and build customer trust by creating their own personalized handouts that sum up critical points of the lifetime warranties they handle.
These quick-reference sheets, which carry the shop's or store's logo, feature simple, large headings such as ``WHAT'S COVERED'' and ``WHAT'S NOT COVERED.'' Below these headings, a series of brief blurbs gives the customer a simple summation of how the warranty works.
When creating such a quick-reference sheet, a good litmus test for your first draft is to glance at it and see how much critical information it conveys immediately. If you find yourself reading for several minutes, you know the explanation is too wordy or too complicated. As you rewrite it, remember the reader is a technically unsophisticated customer.
Some tire/service centers distinguish themselves by supplementing existing lifetime warranties with additional features such as free towing if a part fails within 50 miles of the shop. To help these extra features get the attention they deserve, highlight them with bigger, bolder type.
Some shops highlight their superlative warranty offerings with handout headings such as ``WHAT THEY (the parts maker) COVER'' and ``WHAT WE COVER.''
Regular readers know I've been stressing the importance of creating a positive, trustful atmosphere throughout the tire store and service center. The greater the level of trust you create, the easier it is to close tire and service sales.
In an era of heightened consumer suspicion and weasel-worded warranties, the forthrightness of a warranty-clarification sheet will speak volumes about your integrity. It's an inexpensive technique that helps build the trusting relationships that bring customers back again and again.
Always tread softly and gauge customer reaction closely. A customer may be apprehensive, thinking another shop burned him on a supposedly all-inclusive parts warranty. You may have to marshal all the trust-building evidence possible just to close the sale.
For example, some motorists don't realize that a ``lifetime'' muffler warranty is valid only when the technician replaces the pipes fore and aft of the muffler, too.
Worse yet, some unscrupulous characters cut the brake rotors down to minimum-allowable thickness on every lifetime brake job. This strategy helps ensure that if the pads fail, the rotors also will be worn beyond safe limits. Bottom line: The shop sells a new set of rotors at full ticket because the warranty doesn't cover rotor wear!
Expect abuses, excuses
In my last column, I said you can count on cash-strapped consumers reading more features into lifetime warranties than really exist. Likewise, count on seeing customers who have learned to take the fullest advantage of every warranty.
One of the best examples is someone who does mostly short-trip driving and keeps a vehicle for a relatively long time. Because the exhaust system seldom gets hot, excessive condensation forms inside it, causing rapid and repeated exhaust rust-out. A customer who learns this can really capitalize on lifetime exhaust warranties.
Plus, some vehicles are tougher on brakes than others. No matter how thorough a brake job you perform, the vehicle will devour brake pads quicker than you like.
Imagine the motorist who drives a relatively durable vehicle in a hilly area such as Pittsburgh or San Francisco, while his college-student kids moonlight delivering newspaper bundles around town.
After his kids tear up one or two sets of disc pads, this fellow may recognize the value of a lifetime brake job. If he does, he may become a familiar face at your store!